I’m the kind of person who does a lot of research before I buy. It doesn’t matter if what I’m purchasing is something as simple as a new brand of peanut butter or as complicated as virtual reality technology—I want to know what I’m getting into ahead of time so that I can have everything I need right away rather than having to put off making a sandwich or playing with my new game system to wait for another piece of equipment to arrive.
With virtual reality being such a new thing for most people, there’s a lot of confusion about what is and isn’t necessary when getting ready to purchase a VR system. There’s an incredible amount of technology out there, ranging from the absolutely essential to the totally superfluous. Do you need a biofeedback sensor? What gear is right for you? Should you buy a controller or will your set come with one? Fear not, we’ve got the baseline requirements with a few extra goodies for those looking to enhance their VR experience.
Games have often been thought of by developers and gamers alike as performance pieces. The entirety of Super Mario 3, for example, is designed to look as if the action is taking place on a stage, with characters acting out parts in the story, and with the lowering and raising of curtains symbolizing scene changes.
In virtual reality, though, there’s no “stage” as such: the player isn’t watching from a single perspective which is defined by the screen they’re viewing. Instead of a proscenium, VR is more of a fishbowl: a round theater with all of the action surrounding the player, rather than just in front of them.
I remember the heaven that was playing my Game Boy alone when I was younger.
Back in a time when the TV was the only color screen in the house, securing precious time to play console games usually meant onlookers. It meant sharing the experience with other members of the family who would give commentary, suggestions, or who might want a turn at playing for themselves.
Playing my Game Boy was different, though – that tiny pixelated screen was all my own, and I could play for hours by myself without anyone else interfering.
Since the birth of video gaming, players have dreamed of a time when they can enter a fantastical virtual space that looks and feels as believable and deep as the real world.
Virtual reality offers gamers a level of immersion that’s never been possible before. Players can look directly out of their avatar’s eyes, interact with characters who look directly at them, and experience games without the kinds of outside distractions that plague even the most sophisticated of traditional video games.
In order for VR games to truly meet the level of immersion that players want, though, players need to feel free to choose their actions for themselves – on-rails VR experiences can be fun, but they don’t deliver the level of freedom that players crave.
The biggest event on the gaming calendar has come and gone for another year, and what an exciting event it was. 2016’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 for the uninitiated) was jam-packed with announcements surrounding new games and hardware that players will be able to get their hands on in the coming months and years.
More so than ever before, virtual reality took center stage. Most of the attention at E3 goes to the bigger games publishers, and this meant getting a close look at a few big-budget VR titles for the first time. While companies like Sony and Valve have been involved in VR development for many years now, for the most part VR software development has been undertaken by indie studios working on brand new intellectual property. This year’s E3, though, has revealed how many of the big studios are pumping resources into creating VR installments in existing popular franchises, proving just how much faith the industry has that VR is about to take off in a big way.
I remember playing Mario Kart on the Wii for the first time. Flush with excitement about the potential of the new motion control technology and its application for a racing game, I eagerly plugged my controller into the plastic wheel that came bundled with it to try out its practical driving simulation. When playing the previous game in the series, I had made use of a steering wheel controller, and I looked forward to having a similar experience with the new title.
Virtual reality gaming is the future.
That’s a bold claim, but it’s an honest one. This technology is one of the most promising gaming innovations in some time, and it’s unlikely to go anywhere soon—from its numerous applications outside the gaming sphere to the increasing quality of its visuals and mechanics, VR is here to stay.
Not all VR games look alike.
There are the games with bright, simple, cartoon art styles, such as Job Simulator or Deep Space Mine. Then there are games like Loading Human and Adr1ft, which work harder to create a more realistic aesthetic – one which more closely mirrors the real world, albeit with fantastical science fiction elements.
So which approach works better? Are there any rules as to what style suits which games, and what can be inferred about a VR game’s story and gameplay from its art style?
Early VR technology is nothing if not impressive—already, we’re seeing the Apollo 11 mission first-hand or seizing control of fictional space. But that’s only the beginning, and these games don’t show what VR’s full capabilities truly are. Sure, a realistic roller coaster simulator is cool, but it’s only scratching the surface. Virtual reality is more than just a new way to experience the same media; it’s a new medium in its own right, with the largely untapped ability to enhance many existing fields.
While access to virtual reality is still limited, its potential in a variety of fields is already being explored. Following are five of the most interesting uses, showing how unique and powerful this new technology is in ways we’re only just beginning to understand.
Rockband. Dance Dance Revolution. Mario Paint. Football Manager. Madden. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Pong.
Video games are full of titles which attempt to recreate the act of performing other activities, whether it’s playing a musical instrument, practicing a sport, or creating artwork.
These games allow us to sample the experience of learning a new skill without requiring us to put in as much practice and effort that might otherwise be required. While some games might recreate an experience that we’re unlikely to have in real life, such as winning an international sports competition or playing a gig in a massive stadium to thousands of adoring fans, often this little taste of success is enough to motivate players to try out something new in real life.